Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education speaks out against changes to new student privacy law

As explained in the Wait, What? post entitled,  ALERT – Legislation seeking to undo student privacy protections now before CT Legislature’s Education Committee, legislation has been introduced that would undermine Connecticut’s new student privacy law.

In legislative testimony this week, the Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education explained why the change is unnecessary and inappropriate.

Parents should take a moment to read this important information.

CAPE testified;

HB 7207 would delay student data privacy protections enacted last year until July 1, 2018. HB 7207 would undermine protections that students, from prek through grade 12 currently have as a result of the committee’s hard work last year when it enacted PA 16-189 with bi-partisan support.

The proposed bill would keep parents in the dark regarding the release of their children’s records. It would keep parents in the dark regarding contractors who have access to their children’s records. It would keep parents in the dark even in the event of breach of student data. The proposed bill undermines several sections to the law that was passed overwhelmingly by legislators and supported by parents, educators and other critical voices representing children. It undermines security requirements for contractors and operators of websites and apps and delays the implementation of a breach policy. It leaves unaddressed the fact that a task force created last year to address ongoing issues was never convened. It would leave children in Connecticut less protected than those in other states where 73 laws on student data privacy have been enacted.

We can see no reason that any part of this law, let along the entire law, should be delayed. At a time when security and transparency provisions have already been long overdue in this state, HB 7207 would delay protections for more than 2 years from the time this committee recommended a bill to the General Assembly. Connecticut would be going backwards.

In addition, PA 16-189 established a task force to address unmet and ongoing student privacy issues. It was never convened. The task force would have addressed issues regarding enforcement and penalties for third party violators, training in data security and handling, an inventory of approved resources, the development of a tool kit for use by school districts, a means by which parents could reasonably request the deletion of student information that is held by third parties, and to provide model practices in the state. The task force was good policy passed as a good faith promise to parents and other stakeholders that more would be done to protect students.

Some districts have done their due diligence and are doing the right thing by their students and the law. However, other districts are finding compliance more challenging and could benefit from some assistance. This was not an unforeseen issue, and one reason for the creation of a task force was for it to provide guidance and a toolkit for implementation.

Thankfully, the Connecticut Commission on Educational Technology (CCET), in collaboration with The Department of Administrative Services, has undertaken the task of assisting districts (You can see what they have done here: Operationalizing Public Act 189 http://www.ct.gov/ctedtech/cwp/view.asp?a=1182&q=253412). Their work is commendable and likely to result in most districts being in compliance in the near future – unless this bill is enacted, giving districts and opponents justification to halt progress.

It is important to note that according to CCET, an unanticipated benefit of this law is that an accounting of purchases and agreements has helped districts to identify redundancies and inefficiencies, effectively streamlining purchases and processes. We commend CCET on its work and commitment to the privacy of students.

Still, a permanent Advisory Council that enables all stakeholders to collaborate on behalf of students is necessary and should be added into the law. As many of you know, we often do our best work when all voices are represented and working together to address shared challenges and develop collaborative solutions.

It should also be noted that PA 16-189 did not stop the collection of student data or its appropriate use for instructional purposes and to improve student learning. It simply provided greater notice and transparency for parents and delineated contract provisions and technical security safeguards, while seeking to address misuse and instances of breach.

The jury is no longer out. There has been a wealth of information and resources to help us understand why it is necessary for us to do this and how to do it right. We have learned from state and federal guidance documents, two legislative sessions worth of public hearings and forums, television and radio reports, and too many news articles with headlines shouting “breach”. We urge that you stand behind this policy and stand with the parents and students of your districts by saying “No Delay

Now is the time to make sure legislators understand that they should reject the effort to undermine Connecticut’s new student privacy law.

ALERT – Legislation seeking to undo student privacy protections now before CT Legislature’s Education Committee

In this day and age of widespread data breaches, Governor Dannel Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen and an overwhelming majority of Connecticut state legislators say they support privacy protections.  They’ve even passed laws that guarantee notification and required protection for those whose data has been breached.

But in an incredibly underhanded maneuver, a new bill is being considered by the Education Committee that would roll back critically important protections for parents and children if data collected at school is breached.

House Bill 7207 strips the protection that students currently have by repealing the existing requirement that parents be notified if their child’s information is released via a corporate breach.

One would think that elected officials would be outraged, but with industry lobbying seeking to turn back the clock on these important notification requirements there is only silence from Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen — both of whom publicly bragged about their commitment to protecting Connecticut residents from data breaches.

In fact, just two years ago, Malloy and Jepsen pushed for legislative action requiring companies to notify and protect residents in the case of a breach and last year Malloy signed the new education law (Public Act 16-189) which targeted companies that do business with public schools.

But now with the new push to undo those protections, Malloy and Jepsen are nowhere to be seen.

As the parent run Connecticut Alliance for Student Privacy explains,

This year’s proposed bill (HB 7207) delays the effective date of the law passed last session from October 1, 2016 to July 1, 2018. 

The law, as passed last year, did not stop the collection of student data or its appropriate use for instructional purposes or to improve student outcomes. It simply provides greater notice and transparency for parents and delineates contract provisions and technical security safeguards, while seeking to address misuse and instances of breach.

The effort to undo Connecticut’s new law is even garnering national attention.  Fellow education advocate and blogger, Cheri Kiesecker, recently posted the following on her Missouri Education Watchdog blog.

Connecticut legislators don’t want to protect students after all. Attacking Student Data Privacy Law–AGAIN.

Connecticut passed a student data privacy and transparency bill, Public Act 189,  in 2016.

The bill adopted common sense policies associated with contracts between school districts and corporations that collect, maintain, and share student data.  The CT law does NOT limit data collection, does not require parental consent prior to collecting data, it only asks that NEW or renewed contracts and bids collecting student data must handle data appropriately. The law requires parents to be notified if their child’s data is breached. To their credit, the CT Commission on Educational Technology has done great work and is prepared and ready for this law to be implemented.  You can see their plan here: Operationalizing Public Act 189.

Why then, are some lawmakers in CT introducing bills to cripple this new law that protects student data privacy? Do they not think that keeping student data safe, notifying parents of a breach is important?

You may remember one Connecticut legislator introduced a bill in January to entirely repeal this new student privacy law.  As CT blogger and parent Jonathon Pelto wrote,

“…in an astonishing, baffling and extremely disturbing move, State Representative Stephen Harding (R-107th District) has introduced legislation (HB 5233) to repeal this important law (Public Act 16-189)

…It is not clear who would ask Representative Harding to propose such a bill or why the representative would seek to do such harm to Connecticut’s students, parents and public schools.”

Fortunately, Representative Harding withdrew the bill after receiving much pushback (understandably) from the parent community.

New bill “Revising” CT Student Privacy to be heard Monday, March 6

This past week a new bill, 7207 to “revise” the student data privacy law, was introduced, and will be heard by the CT Joint Education Committee this Monday, March 6.  This kind of a rush job could imply that they are hoping to pass this bill without giving parents time to react.  This new bill, 7207, wants to repeal the data privacy law and delay further implementation until July 1, 2018.   This would remove existing protection of school children for over a year.  WHY?

The Student Data Privacy Law has been in effect since Oct. 1, 2016; it only applies to NEW contracts, only asks for transparency, the CT Edtech Commission has already done the work to implement it. WHY, would Connecticut want to now repeal protection and transparency?

[…]

Is it asking too much that when a company contracts with a school and collects and uses and shares children’s data, that the data be kept safe and parents be able to see how that data is used, breached, and not sold?

By repealing or delaying this law, who are they protecting?

Connecticut parents and other citizens opposed to stripping children of the privacy protections contained in Public Act 189 should take immediate steps to notify their legislators that this unwarranted and inappropriate assault on protecting students and parents must be defeated.

For more about this legislative effort to undermine Public Act 189 go to the CT Alliance for Privacy in Education’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CTStudentDataPrivacy/posts/618261395030545

Massachusetts said NO to more charter schools, Connecticut should as well

At the same time that Governor Dannel Malloy is instituting the deepest cuts in Connecticut history to Connecticut’s public schools he is diverting more than $110 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Malloy and his operatives now want to expand this outrageous money grab with a plan to increase the number of charter schools in Connecticut and implement a new funding proposal that would see an additional $40-$50 million a year diverted to the private corporations that own Connecticut’s existing charter schools.

Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials should take a deep pause and look to Massachusetts for an indication of what happens when a state adopts this so-called “money follows the child” funding system.

Last November the charter school industry in the Bay State tried to push through a state-wide ballot initiative that would have allowed more charter schools to be opened in the Commonwealth.

To fund their effort the charter school industry pumped more than $24 million dollars into their political campaign.

The cash came from large corporate education reform “dark money” groups that refuse to release the names of their donors, wealthy hedge fund owners, Massachusetts corporations and out-of-state contributors including the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  (See Wait, What? post Charter School Industry raised more than $24 million in 2016 record breaking defeat In Massachusetts).

But in this case, the massive outpouring of money couldn’t buy the outcome of the election as parents, educators and taxpayers successfully pushed back against those who seek to privatize public education in the United States.  On Election Day, 62 percent of voters cast their ballots against the measure and only 38 percent in favor of the provision.

Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Assocation, summed up the significant victory saying;

 “It’s really clear from the results of this election that people are interested in public education and value that.”

Madeloni added,

“There should be no conversation about expanding charters until the Legislature fully fund our public schools.”

Media coverage of the Massachusetts ballot initiative explained the outcome noting,

“The opposition could not match the “Yes on 2” campaign on television advertisement spending. But the “no” camp had the support of prominent Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. And it mobilized a sprawling field operation, with hundreds of teachers and liberal activists reaching an estimated 1.5 million voters statewide over the course of the campaign.”

In Massachusetts, voters realized that the charter schools were diverting scarce taxpayer funds away from local public school because Massachusetts already utilizes what is called a “money follows the child” school funding formula.  This funding system means that,

“When students leave traditional public schools for charters, they take thousands of dollars in state aid with them. And opponents focused heavily on this financial strain, raising the specter of cuts to arts education, transportation, and other services at the schools that serve the vast majority of students.”

Connecticut’s charter school advocacy groups have recently proposed just such a system for Connecticut and it is very likely that Malloy, an advocate of privatizing public education, will adopt their proposal as his own when he issues his proposed state budget next week.   See the Wait, What? Post of January 26, 2017 entitled Connecticut – Beware the charter school industry’s proposed new school funding scheme.

The question now is whether the state legislature will do Malloy’s bidding or actually step forward and do what is best for Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, public schools and taxpayers.

Stay tuned!

Sackler ponies up $8,000 more in Charter School Industry’s effort to influence legislative races in Connecticut

As the 2016 Election came to a close, charter school aficionado and big-time campaign donor – Jonathan Sackler – whose company makes OxyContin, dropped $8,000 into the Charter Cares Political Action Committee, the entity that raised more than $86,000 to support a handful of pro-charter school legislative candidates during this year’s election cycle.  Sackler’s latest contribution comes on top of a $10,000 donation he already made to the charter school PAC.

During the General Election, Charter Cares PAC devoted their resources in support of two legislative campaigns, one effort for incumbent State Senator Steve Cassano (D-Manchester) and the other for incumbent State Representative Andre Bumgardner (R-New London/Groton).

Cassano squeaked out a narrow victory while Bumgardner lost to his Democratic opponent.

Of the total amount of money Charters Care raised, the majority came from Education Reform Now, a shadowy New York based “Dark Money” group that refuses to identify its donors.

In addition to Jonathan Sackler, who is Governor Dannel Malloy’s biggest contributor, other major donors to Charters Care were individuals directly associated with Achievement First, Inc and ConnCAN.

Achievement First, Inc. is the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.  ConnCAN is Connecticut’s leading charter school advocacy group that has led the record breaking lobbying effort in favor of Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school initiative.

According to reports filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Achievement First and ConnCAN connected donors to Charters Care included Brian Olson who donated $10,000 and Andrew Boas who contributed $4,500.

For more about Charters Care, Education Reform Now Network and their Connecticut campaign effort check out;

New York Dark Money, Pro-Charter Group pours another $15,000 into Connecticut legislative races

Charter School Industry drops $63,000 plus into Connecticut legislative races

Connecticut taxpayers robbed by their elected officials and the Lockheed Martin Corporation

The politicians and industry officials were beaming.  The media was singing their praises.  The Connecticut General Assembly had just voted to give Lockheed Martin $220 million in public funds.

The question was not whether Lockheed Martin was going to get paid for producing a new line of helicopters.  The question was whether, in addition to payment and excessive profits, a state government would pay the Lockheed Martin Corporation even more money in return for a promise that the company would produce those machines in their state.

And Lockheed Martin found a willing partner in the form of Governor Dannel Malloy and the members of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Yesterday, Connecticut’s elected officials voted – almost unanimously – to give Lockheed Martin $220 million in corporate welfare.  Counting principal and interest, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed a quarter of a billion dollars over the next twenty years.

In return, Lockhead Martin, a $50 Billion a year company, has promised to keep Sikorsky’s headquarters in Connecticut for at least a decade, add up to 550 new jobs at the Sikorsky plant and build some new helicopters here in the state.

The underlying threat was that If Connecticut’s taxpayers didn’t cough up the blood money, Lockheed Martin would retaliate by moving the Sikorsky work to a factory in another state or overseas.

And the $220 million taxpayers will be paying?

As Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, Marilyn Hewson made in excess of $29 million in 2015.  Her pay and benefits topped $106 million over the past five years.  Meanwhile, the top five Lockheed Martin corporate officers pulled in approximately $62 million in pay and benefits last year.

That $220 million that Connecticut taxpayers are donating to the company barely equates to what the top five corporate officials have made over the last five years.

But Connecticut’s elected officials weren’t talking about padding the salaries of Lockheed Martin’s executives yesterday, instead they were patting themselves on the back for agreeing to the deal.

Governor Dannel Malloy crowed about the gift Connecticut was making to one of the most profitable members of the military-industrial complex saying,

“Competition in today’s worldwide economic climate is fierce, and Connecticut is showing that we remain a valued leader where businesses can maintain a competitive edge well into the future,”

Meanwhile, State Senator Catherine Osten, (D-Sprague), celebrated the deal calling it, “an unalloyed piece of good news,” and stating,

“I’m more than happy to support this deal. I think it’s a great day. I think it’s a turning point in Connecticut.”

Maintaining a competitive edge?  The development is an unalloyed piece of good news?

To reiterate the obvious, this was not about whether Lockheed Martin was going to get paid to build a new line of helicopters.  Not only were public and private funds paying for the helicopters, but Lockheed Martin was always going to make a massive profit on each unit.

The reference to the so-called competitive climate was simply a question of which state – or country – was willing to pay Lockheed Martin above and beyond their costs and profits in order to “win” the company’s benign neglect.

In January 1960, President Eisenhower warned us of the danger of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Yesterday, we saw that more than fifty-five years later, there were only 7 out of 187 members of the Connecticut General Assembly who had the courage and conviction to stand up to that political cabal.

Voting against the horrendous deal…

Republican State Senator Markley and Republican State Representatives Ackert, Belsito, Dubitksy, France, Sampson and Smith.

You read read more about the story and how the media covered it via:

CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/2016/09/28/sikorsky-incentives-win-bipartisan-approval-in-special-session/

CTNewsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/lawmakers_look_favorably_upon_deal_to_keep_helicopter_production_in_connect/

Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-sikorsky-connecticut-deal-20160928-story.html

 

Is it pure stupidity or political expediency that led the legislature to cut its oversight of the Malloy administration?

CT Newsjunkie columnist Sara Darer Littman digs deeper into the incredible decision by Connecticut’s legislative leaders to dump the professional staff of its Program Review and Investigations Committee rather than trim the legislature’s partisan, political staff.

As explained in last week’s Wait, What? post entitled, Surprise!  CT Legislature decides to function in the dark,

As the former House Chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigation Committee, I’ve waited with baited breath as Connecticut’s legislative leaders’ contemplated ways to trim their generous legislative branch budget.

One option facing the Democratic-controlled Legislative Management Committee was to reduce the number of partisan, political staff that serve as the part-time legislator’s year-around aides.

Alternatively, legislative leaders announced that would have to consider taking the unprecedented and illogical step of eliminating the professional staff who work for the critically important Program Review and Investigation Committee, the primary entity that allows the legislature to investigate and oversee Executive Branch programs.

What, oh what, would legislative leaders do when faced with such a “difficult” decision?

Should they take a small step that might reduce their power of incumbency or decide it is better to simply fly blind when it comes to the Legislative Branch’s oversight function?

With the stark headline, CT legislature’s chief investigative panel to lose all staffthe CT Mirror reported on the recent decision made by the legislative leaders.

CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains,

State legislative leaders have eliminated the General Assembly’s chief investigative arm, reassigning most of the Program Review and Investigations Committee’s 11-member staff to other duties in coming months.

The committee was established 44 years ago over the veto of then-Gov. Thomas Meskill.

In her follow up to the initial news, Sara Darer Littman writes;

The bottom line is that fewer analysts will be looking at the financial consequences of our state legislation and programs, which cannot possibly be viewed as a good thing by any rational taxpayer.

What makes this move particularly disturbing, especially in light of what’s been happening with the state’s economic incentives, is that the program review staff would have been assigned to review hundreds of millions of dollars in business tax incentives if Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s bill — which was passed by both houses of the legislature — had not been subsequently vetoed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Some of us are old enough to remember when the Governor came to office pledging to run an “open and transparent” government.

Sara Darer Littman goes on to lay bare the vague rationale behind the legislature’s recent decision to destroy their oversight function.  Her piece raises serious questions that every legislator should be forced to answer.

You can read and comment on her commentary piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_budget_changes_hamstring_good_government/

 

 

Surprise!  CT Legislature decides to function in the dark

As the former House Chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigation Committee, I’ve waited with baited breath as Connecticut’s legislative leaders’ contemplated ways to trim their generous legislative branch budget.

One option facing the Democratic-controlled Legislative Management Committee was to reduce the number of partisan, political staff that serve as the part-time legislator’s year-around aides.

Alternatively, legislative leaders announced that would have to consider taking the unprecedented and illogical step of eliminating the professional staff who work for the critically important Program Review and Investigation Committee, the primary entity that allows the legislature to investigate and oversee Executive Branch programs.

What, oh what, would legislative leaders do faced with such a “difficult” decision?

Should they take a small step that might reduce their power of incumbency or decide it is better to simply fly blind when it comes to the Legislative Branch’s oversight function.

With the stark headline, CT legislature’s chief investigative panel to lose all staff, the CT Mirror is now reporting the recent decision made by the legislative leaders.

CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains,

State legislative leaders have eliminated the General Assembly’s chief investigative arm, reassigning most of the Program Review and Investigations Committee’s 11-member staff to other duties in coming months.

The committee was established 44 years ago over the veto of then-Gov. Thomas Meskill.

The moves cap months of negotiations over the program review office between leaders of the Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate.

The $19.76 billion state budget enacted in May for the 2016-17 fiscal year includes a vague directive that the Legislative Branch achieve $750,000 in savings. Democratic leaders initially announced it would be achieved by eliminating six of the 12 program review staff posts.

[The] alternative, ultimately, was to eliminate the committee’s staff but let most of them remain in state employment.

[…]

During the last recession, program review staff recommended changes involving prescription drug purchasing and transitioning more nursing home patients into home care that saved just over $200 million in 2010 and 2011 combined, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

But legislative leaders have said tough fiscal decisions had to be made.

[…]

Sharkey and Looney said they value the program review office’s work but they also felt the legislative branch’s portion of the budget — albeit a small one — should sacrifice in the same way as the rest of state government.

The Republican minorities in the House and Senate had recommended cutting the entire program review operation in an alternative budget plan.

By eliminating the Program Review and Investigations Committee’s professional staff, Connecticut’s elected state senators and state representatives have taken another giant step in giving up their constitutional duty to review and investigate the actions taken by Governor Dannel Malloy and Connecticut’s Executive Branch of government.

BREAKING NEWS – “NEW” SAT a fraud on Connecticut and the nation’s high school students, their parents, teachers and taxpayers

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

– Former College Board (SAT) executive

A major and devastating controversy is crashing into the “NEW” SAT and thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly, Connecticut’s high school students are caught up in the growing disaster.

A leak of thousands of SAT questions, a stunning expose by Reuters News about myriad of problems associated with the standardized testing scheme, an FBI raid and now a broadside posted by a former SAT executive is focusing attention on the absurd use of the “NEW” SAT to evaluate Connecticut’s public school students, teachers and schools.

The harsh reality is that Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly should never have mandated the use of the “NEW,” Common Core-aligned SAT as Connecticut’s 11th grade mastery test.

For background on the initial mistake see Wait, What? posts;

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT;

Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders;

My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016”;

Criticism of the NEW SAT grows as Connecticut’s 11th grades are told they MUST take it on March 2nd,

As well as, The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker); Connecticut school psychologist John Bestor on the NEW SAT and opting-out; REQUIRING THE SAT GETS CONNECTICUT LESS THAN NOTHING (By Ann Cronin)

Now, as a result of the most recent allegations, Malloy, his political appointees on the State Board of Education, his department of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly should immediately suspend the use of the SAT to evaluate students, teachers and public schools and should further demand that an independent investigation into the SAT and its lack of validity be conducted.

Unfortunately, mainstream media coverage of the breaking developments surrounding the “NEW” SAT have been scarce following the in-depth investigation conducted by Reuters (See links to the Reuters stories below).

What is clear is that the Reuters’ articles serve as an astonishing and shocking expose about how privatization and greed have turned the SAT into an utter farce, especially in states like Connecticut that decided to use the “NEW” SAT as a “tool” to label children, evaluate teachers and rank public schools.

The whole issue took an even more incredible twist this past weekend when Manuel Alfaro, a former College Board executive posted an open letter about the problems with the new SAT stating,

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

In his broadside, Manuel Alfaro adds;

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

As these officials are elected (or appointed by an elected official), you can demand their immediate resignation or you can vote to replace them immediately to ensure that the department of Education in your state is headed by an individual willing to put the interests of your students and your family first.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will describe how the current heads of the Department of Education have failed you and why they lack the judgment (and common sense) to protect the best interests of your children.

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations. According to a Reuter’s story, published on Friday August 26, 2016, here is what some of the states had to say about my statements and allegations:

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, Bill DiSessa, said the state “checked with the College Board” and decided not to look into Alfaro’s claims. Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said the state discussed Alfaro’s email with the College Board and was “satisfied with the response we received.”

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said the state considered Alfaro’s email to be “replete with hyperbole, but scant on actual facts. We did not take further action.” Donnelly said the state hadn’t reviewed Alfaro’s detailed posts on LinkedIn.

Although I have not seen any of the explanations the College Board may have provided, I can assure you that none included the following critical fact: The College Board, ETS, and the Content Advisory Committee did not have time to review all the items prior to pretesting, as the College Board has repeatedly claimed they do.

[…]

If the heads of the Department of Education of your state knew anything about test development, they would have noticed that something about the College Board’s explanation didn’t add up and would have requested copies of the records of the face-to-face committee meetings, which the College Board must keep in order to comply with the Standards of Educational and Psychological Testing. Most importantly, the College Board needs to provide these records to the federal government as evidence for peer review of the assessment programs for these states.

The heads of the Department of Education of your states clearly lack the critical reasoning skills (and the common sense) and basic knowledge of test development required to make good decisions on behalf of the millions of children in their care. This reason alone is enough to demand their immediate resignation.

The College Board saved approximately 17 million dollars by taking shortcuts in the development of a product that affects the lives of millions of students every year. This is how the College Board can afford to offer the SAT to states for about $12 per student.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s directive, the Connecticut General Assembly adopted legislation last year mandating the use of the new SAT and this past March Connecticut’s  high school juniors  were told they “must” take the SAT and that it would be used to evaluate them, their teachers and their schools.

It was wrong for Malloy to back the new SAT.

It was wrong for the legislature to mandate its use.

And now Connecticut’s elected officials have an obligation to take immediate action to undo the damage they have caused.

For additional background, here are the Reuter’s articles reporting on their investigation:

Part 1:  http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-sat-one/ (As SAT was hit by security breaches, College Board went ahead with tests that had leaked)

Part 2:  http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-sat-two/ (How Asian test-prep companies swiftly exposed the brand-new SAT)

Part 3: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-cheating-iowa/ (How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges)

Part 4: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-cheating-act/ (Students and teachers detail pervasive cheating in a program owned by test giant ACT)

Part 5: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-sat-security/ (‘Massive’ breach exposes hundreds of questions for upcoming SAT exams)

Follow up – Exclusive: FBI raids home of ex-College Board official in probe of SAT leak – http://www.reuters.com/article/us-college-sat-fbi-idUSKCN112009?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social

Another victory for government secrecy in Connecticut?

The CT Mirror headline reads; Fate of legislature’s investigative arm hangs on budget battle.

As background, in 1992 I served as the House Chairman of the Connecticut General Assembly Program Review and Investigation Committee.  In many respects it is one of the most important committees in the legislative branch of government.  The bi-partisan committee and its professional staff are tasked with providing the legislature with the ability to review and investigate administrative agencies, programs and policies and the committee serves as a unique mechanism to counter the power of the Governor and his control over all state activities.

But as a result of their disastrous budget agreement, Malloy and Democratic leaders took a major step toward undermining, even destroying, this important vehicle of transparency.

As the CT Mirror explains;

The fate of the legislature’s chief investigative arm probably will be determined in the next few weeks as top leaders decide whether to impose a cut that would chop the nonpartisan agency in half.

Meanwhile, the House’s longest-serving current member, Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, insists House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey’s office assured her the planned reduction to the Program Review and Investigation Committee staff would be significantly muted — in exchange for her support for the new state budget.

But the speaker, who is retiring after this year, said last week his office never made that pledge. And while he said he would try, nonetheless, to ease the fiscal pain, it is doubtful that several of the 12 positions in the investigative office won’t be eliminated.

In the short term, undermining the Program Review and Investigation Committee would derail important legislative reviews including studies into the State’s school desegregation programs; long-term care services; substance abuse prevention services and the state’s handling of discrimination complaints.

But the far more serious issue is that by decimating the Program Review Committee’s staffing and mission, the legislature would be taking another giant leap backwards in its duty to monitor and investigate the actions of the administrative branch of government.

But less executive branch oversight and less independence for the state’s clean government agencies appears to be one of Governor Dannel Malloy’s prime objectives. Unfortunately Democratic leaders have done little to subdue Malloy’s unprecedented attack on open and honest government.

As for the Program Review and Investigations Committee, according to the CT Mirror’s latest coverage,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature struggled to eliminate a nearly $1 billion hole in the 2016-17 fiscal year without raising taxes. And the $19.76 billion budget they enacted funds most departments and agencies below the level originally promised for that fiscal year.

When Sharkey and Looney announced a tentative budget agreement with the Malloy administration during the waning hours of the regular legislative session in early May, one of the cuts they announced was $750,000 to be achieved by eliminating half of the program review office’s 12 jobs.

Both Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said they highly value program review’s work.

But they also felt the legislative branch’s portion of the budget — albeit a small one — should sacrifice in the same way the rest of state government was.

However, rather than cut out more of the top heavy political operation within the House and Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses, the legislative leaders, apparently with Republican leadership support, are seeking to preserve the money spent of guaranteeing the power of incumbency and achieving the savings incorporated in the new state budget by going after the Program Review and Investigations Committee.

You can read the complete CT Mirror article at: http://ctmirror.org/2016/07/11/fate-of-legislatures-investigative-arm-hangs-on-budget-battle/

They stole the fricking school bus seat belt money again!

Hidden deep inside the new state budget bill negotiated by Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders, and approved last month by the Democrats in the General Assembly, was a provision that, once again, transferred the money that had been set aside to help school districts retrofit school buses with seat belts into the general fund.

As Wait, What? readers know, this is not the first time Governor Malloy and the Democrats have stolen the School Bus Seatbelt Account in order to make the state budget balance.

Since taking office, Malloy has reached into the special school seat belt fund four times, grabbing close to $10 million dollars.

Rather than use the funds for their intended use – to protect our children – Malloy and the Democrats simply grabbed the money to plug holes in the state budget.

This time, rather than adopt a fair and honest budget, the Democrats added Section 28 to Senate Bill 501 which “transferred” $2 million from the School Bus Seatbelt Account to the General Fund.  The legislature also swept $2 million from the Seat Belt fund to address a small part of the $250 million Fiscal Year 2016 budget deficit.

Previous Wait, What articles on this issue can be found via the following links:

The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget. [Or for long-time Wait, What? readers file under – Not the Fricking School Bus Seat Belts again!] (6/3/2015)

School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry (1/14/2014)

Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority? (12/20/2012)

The School Bus Seat Belt Account was created following the tragic January 2010 school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.  Following the accident, the Connecticut legislature kicked into action, passing Public Act 10-83.

The law created the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account, “a separate non-lapsing account in the General Fund” and required that the funds be used to help school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the Legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175, using the extra $50 per person to create a funding stream for the important program.

Now six years later, no school bus seat belts have been installed, thanks to the fact that Connecticut’s governor and legislature have stolen nearly $10 million from the fund.

When these elected officials come looking for support, ask them why they didn’t do more to stop this outrage.